Raymond Keene

Magnus vs Sergei

Magnus vs Sergei
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The World Championship in New York begins this week. In the run-up, the defending champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, has been the heavy favourite to retain his title against Sergei Karjakin, formerly representing the Ukraine but now playing for Russia. Their lifetime score at classical time limits, under which the New York contest will be conducted, is notably loaded in favour of the incumbent.

As a final preview, here is a win by Carlsen against the former champion Vladimir Kramnik. The notes are based on Cyrus Lakdawala’s in Carlsen: Move by Move (Everyman Chess), a useful compendium for those considering Christmas gifts for chess enthusiasts.

Kramnik-Carlsen: Wijk aan Zee 2008; English Opening

1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 g3 b6 5 Bg2 Bb7 6 0-0 Be7 7 d4 cxd4 8 Qxd4 d6 9 Rd1 a6 10 Ng5 Bxg2 11 Kxg2 Nc6 12 Qf4 0-0 13 Nce4 Ne8 Better than 13 ... Nxe4 14 Qxe4 Bxg5 15 Bxg5 Qc7 16 Bf4 when White continues to exert slight yet nagging pressure, G.Amann-A.Kranz, Goetzis 1997. 14 b3 Ra7 15 Bb2 Rd7 16 Rac1 Nc7 17 Nf3 f5 18 Nc3 g5 (see diagram 1) This is the plan inaugurated with 16 ... Nc7. It appears to weaken the black king but White is not really in any position to exploit this. 19 Qd2 g4 20 Ne1 Bg5 Carlsen forces e3, which weakens f3 and all the light squares around White’s king. 21 e3 Rff7 22 Kg1 Ne8 23 Ne2 Kramnik clears the long diagonal and perhaps prepares a knight transfer to f4, at the cost of weakening e4 further. 23 ... Nf6 24 Nf4 Qe8 25 Qc3 Rg7 26 b4 Kramnik, sensing the storm coming, hurries with a central pawn counter. 26 ... Ne4 27 Qb3 Rge7 28 Qa4 This plan is too slow. White is fine after 28 h4. 28 ... Ne5 29 Qxa6 This is very bad. White should just admit he has taken a wrong turn and do an about face. 29 Qb3 is psychologically difficult to play but keeps the white disadvantage to a minimum. 29 ... Ra7 30 Qb5 Not 30 Qxb6 Reb7 31 Qd4 Bf6 and White loses material. 30 ... Qxb5 31 cxb5 Rxa2 Black is much better in this endgame as his knights are very active and he can plan a kingside advance. 32 Rc8+ Kf7 33 Nfd3 Bf6 34 Nxe5+ dxe5 35 Rc2 Rea7 36 Kg2 Ng5 37 Rd6 e4 38 Bxf6 Kxf6 39 Kf1 Ra1 (see diagram 2) Black simply threatens to double rooks on his eighth rank. 40 Ke2 Rb1 41 Rd1 White gives away both his b-pawns, the equivalent of resignation, but 41 Rxb6?? is met with 41 ... Rd7! and 42 Rd2 walks into 42 ... Nf3 43 Rxd7 Rxe1 mate. 41 ... Rxb4 42 Ng2 Rxb5 43 Nf4 Rc5 44 Rb2 b5 45 Kf1 Rac7 46 Rbb1 Rb7 47 Rb4 Rc4 48 Rb2 b4 49 Rdb1 Nf3 50 Kg2 Rd7 51 h3 e5 52 Ne2 Rd2 53 hxg4 fxg4 54 Rxd2 Nxd2 55 Rb2 Nf3 56 Kf1 b3 57 Kg2 Rc2 White resigns 58 Rxc2 bxc2 59 Nc1 Ne1+ 60 Kf1 Nd3 wins.